Fighting Wildfire in Virginia: Safety and Logistical Essentials

Get to know your local Fire Management personnel. They will be your best guide to keep you safe and informed during your stay with us.

DOF Provided Meals

Meals provided by the DOF should not exceed the standard Virginia Per Diem rates. As of 1/1/02 these limits are:

  • Breakfast and lunch- $6.00 each
  • Dinner - $16.00
  • NOTE (Per Diem rates maybe higher in some locations like Charlottesville, check with local DOF representative)

Lodging

  • Telephone charges will not be allowed from motel rooms. All motel room phones should be turned off to outgoing calls. Use personal calling cards for calls home. Crew Bosses should use credit cards for business calls, and then have your Agency bill the Virginia Department of Forestry for appropriate DOF related business calls.
  • Personnel should be lodged two per room except when a female would have to lodge with a male, or for specific health issues (ie. person with a possible contagious illness). The DOF person in charge of rooms will only approve these exceptions.
  • Crew bosses should keep a record of room assignments of the crew in case of deployments during rest hours and also for emergency notifications. Crew Bosses should inform DOF dispatchers of their specific room assignment.
  • DOF personnel handling motel invoices should designate on the invoice which crews/personnel are pertinent to the invoice prior to submitting to CO for payment (ie. Blackfeet Crew # 74; Unitah Basin Crew; etc.).

Personnel/Crew Time

  • CTR time will start when personnel and crews are ready to be loaded for transport to work assignment. Ending CTR time is completed when crews return to motel or other lodging at end of the operational period.
  • Standard shift for ordered standby will be 12 hours maximum on “Crew Time Reports” (CTR's). The 12-hour maximum will also apply to Crew Bosses and other overhead. While in staging, personnel and crews should be dressed in PPE and ready to deploy within 5 minutes of notification of a dispatch. Crews will not be staged in motels unless instructed to do otherwise.
  • Only the appropriate DOF personnel in charge of the specific crew/personnel will sign approval for CTR times. Under NO circumstances will a blank CTR be approved!
  • Personnel and resources under DOF command, cannot be allowed to work more than a 16 hour operational period after the first 24 hour period of an incident. Personnel should also be given at least 24 uninterrupted hours off following a 14 day work cycle or 48 hours off after 21 days worked.

Miscellaneous

  • Alcoholic beverages are forbidden on State property and during deployments.
  • DOF will not purchase any type of tobacco products or other personal items for use by crews.
  • Reasonable laundry needs of crews are acceptable costs to DOF and are reimbursed on DOF expense accounts. Crew Boss needs prior approval from DOF.
  • Bottle water and sports-type drinks are acceptable to purchase for crews, but soda drinks should not be purchased. Snacks for crews should be kept to a reasonable level and should consist of healthy type foods such as peanuts, granola bars, trail mixes, etc.
  • Other specific needs will be addressed on a case by case basis with approval by the DOF.

Medical needs

  • Injuries and sickness should be reported immediately to supervisors. Injuries reported at the END of operational periods when the injury occurred much earlier may not be covered by Insurance. Federal Workman’s Compensation will cover Federal personnel/crews. Crew Boss's are responsible for completing appropriate Federal forms (CA1 and CA16). The Department of Forestry Workmen's Compensation Insurance will handle claims for personnel on a compact order and all DOF part-time personnel.

In Virginia there are 3 distinctive topographic regions; the Mountains, Piedmont, and Coastal Plain. Each of which has unique fuel types and fire fighting challenges.

  • Mountains: Fuels are mostly hardwoods with scattered areas of pine (Pitch, Table Mtn, White and Virginia). Hemlock and Mountain Laurel are also found and contribute to the fuel loading. Above ground gas lines and “high walls,” which are remnants from past coal strip mining operations, add to the hazardous conditions of fighting fire in the mountains of Virginia, especially at night. Most of the fire fighting done in this area is with hand crews and aircraft.
  • Piedmont: The topography ranges from gently rolling hillsides to steep slopes. Gypsy Moth and Southern Pine Bark Beetle outbreaks along with ice storms over the past several years, have added to the heavy fuel loading in some areas, along with a significant snag hazard. Tractor plow units along with hand crews are used on most fires. The fuel types in this area range from pure upland hardwoods to extensive loblolly pine plantations. Heavier fuel loading compounded with the slope, make for hazardous conditions in the Piedmont.
  • Coastal Plain: The tractor-plow unit is the primary wildfire suppression tool. Hand crews would have nearly an impossible task to dig lines through the thick under-story vegetation found throughout the area. Vast areas of unbroken loblolly pine plantations add significantly to the safety hazards of the wildland firefighter. Extensive uses of herbicides add tremendously to the fine, flashy fuels especially once cured.

Nature’s Hazards

There are only 4 poisonous snakes in Virginia.

  • The Timber Rattler in the Mountains;
  • the Canebreake Rattler;
  • Cottonmouth in the Southeast corner;
  • Copperhead, found throughout the state.

LEAVE ALL SNAKES ALONE. Many smaller “critters” such as chiggers, ticks, bees, wasps and mosquitoes also need paying attention to. Another hazard is poisonous plants, such as poison ivy, poison oak and many other sticking, itching, and irritating plant life. Wash your skin often.